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Thomas R. Lounsbury, ed. (1838–1915). Yale Book of American Verse. 1912.

Edmund Clarence Stedman 1833–1908

Edmund Clarence Stedman

179 Edged Tools

WELL, Helen, quite two years have flown

Since that enchanted, dreamy night,

When you and I were left alone,

And wondered whether they were right,

Who said that each the other loved;

And thus debating, yes and no,

And half in earnest, as it proved,

We bargained to pretend ’t was so.

Two sceptic children of the world,

Each with a heart engraven o’er

With broken love-knots, quaintly curled,

Of hot flirtations held before;

Yet, somehow, either seemed to find,

This time, a something more akin

To that young, natural love,—the kind

Which comes but once, and breaks us in.

What sweetly stolen hours we knew,

And frolics perilous as gay!

Though lit in sport, Love’s taper grew

More bright and burning day by day.

We knew each heart was only lent

The other’s ancient scars to heal:

The very thought a pathos blent

With all the mirth we tried to feel.

How bravely, when the time to part

Came with the wanton season’s close,

Though nature with our mutual art

Had mingled more than either chose,

We smothered Love, upon the verge

Of folly, in one last embrace,

And buried him without a dirge,

And turned, and left his resting-place.

Yet often (tell me what it means!)

His spirit steals upon me here,

Far, far away from all the scenes

His little lifetime held so dear;

He comes: I hear a mystic strain

In which some tender memory lies;

I dally with your hair again;

I catch the gleam of violet eyes.

Ah, Helen! how have matters been

Since those rude obsequies, with you?

Say, is my partner in the sin

A sharer of the penance too?

Again the vision ’s at my side:

I drop my head upon my breast,

And wonder if he really died,

And why his spirit will not rest.